Travel Germany: Chorin Abbey in Brandenburg

Brandenburg, as well as the rest of the world, is all about the people and what they make of the area they live in. As soon as I am on my way back to Berlin from the countryside of Brandenburg, I am full of energy. The wish to see more of the region grows with every visit. Most places in Brandenburg have this off the beaten track feel and are a bit on the wild side. Brandenburg has got the size of the Kingdom of Belgium but whereas there are 4 times more people in that country, there is a lot of space and emptiness in Brandenburg.

Chorin Abbey, where the monks were project-managers

If you jump on a train at Berlin central station you are going to be in Chorin only 45 minutes later. The town in the district of Barnim in Brandenburg is bounded by Poland, Maerkisch-Oderland, Berlin and the Uckermark. Chorin is the home of a Cistercian Abbey founded in 1258. The abbey is a true icon of German gothic architecture. The intricate ornamentation of the famous domes in Cologne, Paris and Siena were the role models and the inspiration for the architects of this structure and were implemented wonderfully. The design process, the stone-manufacturing and planning became a fundamental part of the everyday life of the monks. Today we would most certainly call them project-managers. The marvellous west façade alone is worth the trip to Chorin. When you walk around, take a close look at the elaborate stone friezes and animal motifs and detailed vault consoles that decorate the building.

Uncomfortable and hectic: Chorin Abbey - Eat. Pray. Work

There is so much to discover. I am again and again astonished about conditions people had to live under in medieval times. Imagine how cold and freezing life in this abbey must have been for the monks who lived here long before the introduction of central heating. Today people usually start freezing heavily while waiting for the next bus ... cosily decked out in winter clothes. Life was uncomfortable and hectic, how they got through this without a burn-out we will never know. Visitors can see where the monks worked together in the fields, and visit the refectories where they ate together. From one room you can see where they went upstairs to the large sleeping halls on the upper floor. How on earth did the monks find the time to also pray together for seven hours a day, and also once during the night?

From abbey to event space

After its secularization in 1542, the monks left the abbey and the property was most often used as a private home. In the 19th century, when people saw the importance of its style it became heritage listed. At the beginning of the 20th century, before the two wars started, this area was a popular destination for visitors. Restoration works were discussed and realised. There was still so much to do to bring it back to its former glory. In 1964 they started to hold the “Chorin Music Summer“ and the “Chorin Opera summer“ here. After the fall of the wall the process to restore this property began, and today the abbey is used as an event space and museum.

Beavers love the Amtssee

The abbey is located within the UNESCO-protected Biosphere Reserve Schorfheide-Chorin, established in 1990. When I went for a walk in the woods and along lake Amtssee near the abbey I saw a few felled trees and also noticed that somebody already chewed on many more. I started to wonder about this, and soon found the answer to my question in the form of a beaver lodge. Beavers were near extinction, and that only 25 years ago. 

The main cause was hunting for their fur, meat and their castoreum and also a loss of habitat. The rodents love to spend their time along streams and rivers, and in small lakes, as long as there are lots of trees. Beavers create wetlands and with that provide habitat for so many other species. But there are already people complaining about them since beavers destroy trees, and also change the water flow of streams, and that can cause flooding. Beavers are protected by law and today there are 2,300 beavers in Brandenburg. And believe it or not, experts say that 25 beavers even call Berlin home. 

Info Chorin Abbey

How to get to Chorin. Public transport: Take the Regional Express (RE in short) from Berlin Central station. The journey takes approx. 45 minutes. It is a 1.5 km walk from the station. Car: Roughly 1 hour for the 80 kilometres from Alexanderplatz in Berlin Mitte.

Chlorin Abbey. Amt Chorin 11a, 16230 Chorin

Opening hours. April to September, 9 am to 6 pm. October to March, 10 am to 4 pm. Closed on 24th and 31st December.

Tickets. Adults EUR 4. Children older than 7 years EUR 2.50.

Food. There is an organic café on the grounds of the Abbey and it sells snacks, hot soups, freshly made cake, coffee and tea. And there is ice cream: choose between vanilla, chocolate and mango. If it is warm enough sit under the big trees in front of the café.

Events. There are also different cultural activities on offer, like fairs, Christmas events, workshops and lectures. Please check their calendar for more info.

Verdict Chorin Abbey

No matter if you are a history buff, an architecture fan, a conservationist, a hiker, a foodie or all of the aforementioned, go and see this for yourself and please don't forget to let me know what you think.

From Berlin with love